Improving transitions of care between the operating room and intensive care unit

Derek S. Wheeler, Anna M. Sheets, Frederick C. Ryckman


Transitions of care between individual providers or teams of providers have a high potential for errors due to the incomplete transfer of critical information and the need for ongoing care. The transition from the operating room (OR) to the intensive care unit (ICU) is a particularly dangerous time for critically ill children. Hand-offs of care between the OR and ICU teams during this key transition period require detailed communication of complete and accurate patient information at a time when the patient is perhaps most vulnerable from a physiologic standpoint. Improving the safety of transitions from the OR to the ICU is an active area of investigation, though there are a few notable best practices that are commonly employed in a number of centers. These best practices include having the appropriate personnel at the bedside for the hand-off, the use of scripts and the “sterile cockpit rule”, the use of checklists, double verification of post-operative orders, and maintaining an overall safety culture.